Presented at the Quarry Farm Barn on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. Ann Ryan is Professor of English at Le Moyne College where she chairs the English Department. She is coeditor of "A Due Voci: The Photography of Rita Hammond" and co-editor of Cosmopolitan Twain. She has served as the Editor of the "Mark Twain Annual" and has participated in many institutes and symposiums at the Elmira College Center for Mark Twain Studies.
Although "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" is often read and marketed as a picaresque
tale of friendship and adventure, it is far less sunny. From the moment when Huck declares that he “don’t take no stock in dead people” to the sudden return of Pap’s dead body at the end of the novel, Huck Finn traffics in gothic tropes and spiritual anxieties. Mark Twain’s most celebrated novel is haunted by an American past that the Civil War failed to exorcise, and by the specter of an American future that seems equally terrifying. In their journey down the Mississippi, Huck and Jim share their fears and occasionally inhabit each other’s nightmares as they negotiate the perils of a gothic American reality. In her presentation, Ryan examines -- in some cases exhumes -- the ghosts, spirits, and nameless dead bodies that float their way through "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", in order to contextualize not only Mark Twain’s guilty conscience, but that of the country that haunts him.